Exeter City’s under-18s won in convincing style last weekend with a 4-1 victory over Oxford United.
The Grecians went behind after 10 minutes, but they bounced back in a determined style and levelled midway through the first half through Joel Randall.
Five minutes after half-time, Randall doubled his team’s, and his own personal tally to complete the turnaround, before the playmaker completed his hat-trick on the hour mark.
Jack Sparkes finished off the rout with 20 minutes remaining, it what was an impressive display from Dan Green’s men. This fine win now extends the team’s unbeaten run to seven games across all competitions, putting them in third place, and a position to really challenge the rest of the teams in the top half of a tight Youth Alliance South West Division league table.
Saturday’s match began in a lively manner, with both sides looking to score the vital first goal and take the early initiative.
In spite of the Devon club trying to use home advantage, it was Oxford who struck first after 10 minutes. After winning a corner, The U’s were first to the inswinging set-piece, striking home past the helpless Felix Norman in the City goal.
However, the response shown by the hosts was positive, with a real attitude in clawing themselves back onto level terms in quick fashion.
On 20 minutes, Sparkes weaved his way down the Exeter right flank, before sending a deep cross into the United penalty box. A superb first touch from Randall, allowed the midfielder to fire home to restore parity.
The home side looked to build from their equaliser, and although they created more openings in the first half, the teams went in level at the break.
A bright start to the second period saw the Grecians begin to crank up the pressure on the visitors and their goal.
After just five minutes of the second half, Green’s men had struck again. Randall showed good instincts to pinch the ball from the away side’s midfield. The City youngster kept his composure in his one-on-one to tuck the ball home and make it 2-1.
The Devon outfit were truly on top afterwards, and they deservedly made it 3-1 after 60 minutes.
Sparkes continued to be instrumental for Exeter, and he again became provider when he worked his way down the right wing once again. His cross was met by the thankful Randall, who tapped home to complete his hat-trick in what was a great day for himself and the team.
With plenty of time still left in the match, the hosts scored once more, with the deadly combination of Randall and Sparkes combining once more. The former’s shot across the goal was saved by the Oxford goalkeeper, before the rebound was struck home by Sparkes, rounding off an impressive win for Green and his players.
Exeter City under-18s coach, Dan Green, said: “It was a good win. The real positive from the game was how we reacted to conceding the first goal. We are disappointed to concede it, and we want to keep more clean sheets, but after they had scored we bounced back well.
“I am really pleased for Joel Randall getting his goals because they really helped us win the game. But I feel that was just a product of the hard work the boys put in on their finishing during the week.
“Jordan Dyer played well at the back, Sam Haynes was excellent, Mitch Thomas put in another good performance and Will Dean was good. It was a really good team performance which displayed a real competitive spirit.
“The league is tight, and we have Yeovil Town in our next game who are just a point behind us. We have lots of hard work to do, and we’ll have to be at our best to get a good result next Saturday."
Exeter City under-18s: Felix Norman, Sam Haynes, Jordan Dyer, Josh Hancock, Joe O’Laughlin, Will Dean, Mitch Thomas, Jack Sparkes, Joel Randall, James Dodd, Josh Key. Subs: Lewis Williams, Josh Williams, Harry Kite, Brandon Parsons, Lucas White